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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Dispute school extra cash criticised
Parents and children walk to school amid tight security
Parents and children walk to school amid tight security
There has been criticism of a move to allocate extra money to the school at the centre of a dispute in north Belfast, to try to ensure pupils do not suffer the disadvantage of disruption during exams.

The move was announced by Education Minister Martin McGuinness in the assembly on Monday.

The security forces have had to escort pupils and their parents to Holy Cross Girls' Primary School past a daily protest by Protestant residents living in the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne, where the Catholic school is situated.

Mr McGuinness said he wanted to ensure that the protests, which started on the first day of term and are now into a seventh week, did not cause disruption to pupils taking their 11-plus secondary level transfer test in November.

Martin McGuinness:
Martin McGuinness: "Pupils must not be disrupted during exams"
He said: "Funding has been agreed to enable the teachers to provide additional curriculum support to pupils at Holy Cross taking the transfer test this year.

"The department has also been in touch with the school authority who will take whatever steps they consider appropriate to ensure the children can take the transfer test in a calm and orderly atmosphere."

However, the move has been criticised by the Protestant residents' group, the Concerned Residents of Upper Ardoyne

In a statement, which accused Mr McGuinness of being "sectarian", the group said Wheatfield Primary School, the Protestant school neighbouring Holy Cross, should also benefit from extra money.

Transport suggestion

The announcement was made as the school's board of governors stepped up efforts to defuse the tensions in the area by suggesting that the pupils should be taken to school by bus or car, rather than walking up the Ardoyne Road.

Father Aidan Troy:
Father Aidan Troy suggested pupils take buses to school
Father Aidan Troy, chairman of the board of governors at Holy Cross, has suggested parents should consider using cars or buses to take their children to school.

The Protestant residents, who say they are protesting because of attacks on their community by republicans, last week offered to end their protests if children were bussed to the school.

The school's governors met on Monday night to discuss the situation.

The Holy Cross protest has been relatively peaceful in recent weeks, but it erupted into serious violence in September.

Tensions whipped up by the dispute have spilled onto the streets of north Belfast at night in recent weeks.

The Northern Ireland Office has been trying to broker talks between the Catholic and Protestant residents of Ardoyne. So far, one face-to-face meeting has been held this term.


Meanwhile, parents of children who attend two Protestant secondary schools in north Belfast have said they are prepared to walk their children to and from school to ensure their safety.

At a meeting on Monday evening in the lower Shankill area of west Belfast, parents of pupils attending the Boys and Girls Model secondary schools called for the same level of security for their children as that put in place for the Holy Cross pupils.

Parents of Girls and Boys Model Schools met in Belfast
Parents of Girls and Boys Model Schools met in Belfast

The public meeting was called after a number of attacks on school buses in the area.

DUP Councillor Elaine McMillen said the two school runs were being policed very differently.

"There would be two [police] Land Rovers sitting at the Ardoyne Road, while 32 come down to Holy Cross school," she said.

"The people here are angry. Those kids are getting protected there and our kids aren't getting protected coming home from school."

Earlier, North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said the RUC had promised to provide additional policing cover to protect school buses carrying pupils from schools in the north of the city.

Mr Dodds said that when he met police chiefs on Monday afternoon, he told them that there were increasing numbers of attacks on buses carrying pupils from the Girls' and Boys' Model secondary schools, Belfast Royal Academy and Castle High School.

The BBC's Robin Sheeran reports:
"The minister said extra money has been allocated to prevent the pupils being disadvantaged when they take the 11-Plus exams"
DUP Councillor Elaine McMillen:
"The parents of the Boys and Girls Model school pupils want the same protection for their children"
See also:

15 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
New move urged over school dispute
12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Buses offer to end school protest
14 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Priest likens Holy Cross to Afghanistan
11 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Peace wall for school dispute
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